Plastering and planting

Last fall, we bought this little Christmas tree shaped rosemary plant for the pot by our front door. Our front steps are super awkward, so we were trying to add a little height to the other side to make it a little less bare and blah.


Unfortunately, though, the rosemary didn’t survive. In our area (Northwest Arkansas) rosemary can winter over. Some of our neighbors had huge rosemary bushes that were basically evergreen for several years, but it got cold enough this winter that even their established bushes in the ground didn’t make it. Ours didn’t stand a chance!


And our $5 garage sale pot wasn’t faring too well, either.


I’ve been looking for large, tall pots for a while, but the cheapest I can seem to find (for something at least the height of this current planter) is around $60. No thanks…so instead I decided to try something a little crazy and re-plaster this one.

I used Plaster of Paris, which isn’t technically rated for exterior use so we’ll see if it even lasts one season. First, I scraped off any loose or peeling plaster, and then I mixed up some PoP with water. I applied it with a 1″ putty knife. The first coat was really rough and didn’t cover everything, but I kept adding more to achieve a smoother finish.


I only mixed up small amounts (a quarter of a cup or less at a time) because it begins to set up very quickly. I basically just mixed up a little, smoothed it on until it was gone, mixed up more, and went around and around the pot until it was covered and somewhat smooth. I knocked off any large ridges with the putty knife once the plaster was beginning to set up.


For the last coat, I applied a little more plaster, let it set up for a minute or so, dipped my hand in water and smoothed out the area with my fingers. I’m not much of a sculptor, but oh well! I did my best!


Remember, be careful with Plaster of Paris!! It reacts chemically with water and this reaction causes the mixture to get hot. NEVER submerge your hand in Plaster of Paris and DON’T allow it to dry on your skin as it can cause severe burns! As I said, I only applied it with the putty knife, and then made sure my hand was wet when I touched it and continued to re-wet my fingers as I went. I also kept a bucket of water nearby and rinsed my hand frequently.

This definitely created a much smoother surface than I could have achieved simply with the putty knife or sanding. Once it was almost completely dry, I lightly sanded the plastered areas using a sanding block. Plaster of Paris is thought by some to be carcinogenic and shouldn’t be breathed in, so sanding when it’s just barely wet keeps the dust down. Even if it doesn’t create quite as perfect of a finish, it’s worth avoiding the harmful dust.


And here’s what it looked like when I was finished! Not so pretty yet…but getting there.


Once it was completely dry and hard, I coated all the plastered areas with coat after coat after coat of exterior latex primer. (I believe it can be painted with latex or oil based products.) I wanted to give it the best chance of lasting as I could, so I think I ended up doing 5 coats of primer. (It was hot that day so it dried really fast!)

I primed the rest of the pot, too, just for good measure.


Then I sprayed it using my HVLP gun and a gray exterior latex paint. We bought a little dwarf Alberta spruce tree for about $7 and plunked it in there.


He’s not quite as shapely yet as the rosemary was, but these little guys are cold hardy down to -40 or -50 degrees, compared to only 10 degrees for the rosemary, so….I think his chances of survival are excellent. Better chances than the pot, that’s for sure.


I actually chose it because my mom has one in a pot that has done great! They’re slow growers, and if they’re root bound in a pot like this they’ll never get too big. As it grows, we can prune it to the shape we like.


The pot isn’t quite as dimensional or antiqued looking as it was before, but I like the solid color and the gray so much better!


It matches our house’s new paint job, and I think it stands out against the house way more than before!


Here’s the before of the edges of the pot again.


And here’s the after. Looks like new a new pot, even if it is covered with dirt and pollen!


Now hopefully this plastered area will hold up for a while! It is under the eaves of the house so it doesn’t really get rained on, but the extreme temperature changes from hot summers to icy winters don’t bode well for Plaster of Paris.


I have to admit, I thought I was a little crazy when I started this project. I doubted it would really work or that I’d like the finished product, but for a basically free project I’m pretty stoked with the results!


If the pot lasts through even one winter, I’ll be even more excited! And whenever it does start to crumble beyond repair, we just might have to build our own planter for Mr. Spruce…no way I’m paying $75 for a plastic urn!

2 Responses to Plastering and planting

  1. Shelly Parker June 1, 2014 at 5:23 pm #

    We are neighbors. Sorta. We live next to the lady who killed Roger. Funny story how I found your blog:

    Yesterday, a friend of ours from church went to the Gentry Safari. They mentioned on FB how their little boy loved the peacocks. I commented and talked about Roger and how we loved feeding him, listening to him, etc..but how the neighbor had killed him so he was no more. Another friend from church commented and said “I’ve read a blog from someone in your neighborhood about Roger!” I couldn’t believe it, but couldn’t figure out either, who in our area would have a blog since most of the people around here are older than us.

    Well today, while walking with my husband and daughter, we stopped and were talking to AC. My hubby and I commented on how much we love your house and how we’ve loved watching the progress of how ya’ll have renovated it. (We work with the family that owned your house three owners ago) AC mentioned that ya’ll had a blog and I immediately said “THAT’S IT!” I came home and immediately emailed my friend and asked her what blog it was that she read. She sent me the link to yours!

    I’ve enjoyed reading different posts about all that you’ve done! It’s neat to see the transformation for sure! Ya’ll have done SOOOO much-it’s very inspiring!

    One last little crazy thing….I’ve always noticed that there is a car from Kansas at your house some weekends and have noticed that it’s Sedgwick county. I find it awesome that ya’ll are from Topeka, as I’m from Kansas City, KS…..Wyandotte County as a matter of fact. My entire family lives there still.

    Such a small world!!!

    Thanks for sharing your renovation journey! I look forward to reading more!


    • Simple House Expressions June 7, 2014 at 11:04 pm #

      Shelly, thanks for commenting! That’s awesome! So crazy that your friend remembered reading about Roger on my blog! That was a long time ago. May he rest in peace. 😉 That’s awesome that you’re from Kansas, too! We still have a lot of family in Topeka, Manhattan, and Kansas City.

      I’m glad you’ve enjoyed reading our blog!! We’re working hard, but sometimes it’s easy to forget how far we’ve come. That’s the great thing about the blog…I can always look back at before pictures and remind myself how much we’ve done. This house needed a ton of work!

      And sorry for the delayed response, by the way. After you commented, we’ve been meaning to come officially introduce ourselves (though I think maybe I’ve talked to you once before?), but we’ve been really busy with a project in our back/side yard. (Have you noticed the mound of dirt on the right side of our house?) Anyway, so glad you found my blog, and I hope you’ll come up and see us sometime and get the official tour!!